Clara entered therapy after life changes, particularly the birth of her children, led to a return of earlier mental health difficulties, and a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder

Length of therapeutic relationship: ongoing, over two years

When I started therapy I was experiencing periods of deep depression, anger, extreme irritability, and felt unable to cope. Life felt out of control and my relationship with my husband had drastically deteriorated. I had started self-harming, and was doing so several times a week. Though life had been relatively stable for a while, the enormous change of the birth of my first child triggered a return to the mood changes and turbulent relationships I had experienced for most of my teenage and adult life. I entered weekly short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for four months, and for the last two years have been in twice-weekly open ended psychoanalytic psychotherapy, which I expect to last for at least another two years.

I quickly became attached to my first psychotherapist, and spent the first eight months with my second, mourning the loss of the first. Therapy became the vehicle through and in which I allowed myself to experience grief for the first time; and now I am finally starting to talk about the loss of family members I experienced as a child, but never dealt with. My self-harming has greatly reduced in frequency, and now tends to be my last, rather than my first resort.

I used to believe I quite liked myself - it was a shock to realise that I didn’t.

Therapy has helped me to see the ways in which I really see myself. I used to believe I quite liked myself - it was a shock to realise that I didn’t. I’ve been learning to observe my reactions and to monitor my ‘self-talk’ – harsh, judgmental and negative, as I found it to be. Through therapy I am trying to accept rather than judge my feelings, and to figure out where they have come from and what they are trying to tell me.

My relationship with my therapist is also enabling me to understand how I relate to other people, particularly my husband. I’ve realised that as much as I crave acceptance, I find it hard to accept others ‘as they are’. I have unspoken and unrealistic expectations of those I love – including expectations of unwavering self-control and of mind-reading. I’ve learned that my husband has limits and is only human – and so is my therapist. Learning to let go of ‘the ideal’, has been a hard lesson to learn. Almost as hard as accepting that what I desire (for example, constant reassurance from others), may not be productive in the long-run.

Therapy is my ultimate ‘safe place’.

Therapy has become more valuable and transformative, the more I have tackled my preconceptions of what it ‘ought to be’. It’s taken me a long time to understand there is no ‘right way’ to do psychotherapy, and as a life-long perfectionist and people-pleaser, that went very much against the grain. I’m also becoming comfortable with the fact that neither I nor my therapist knows exactly where our work will take us, and by what route. More often than not, it’s been a throw-away comment or the times I’ve turned up ‘without a plan’, that have led to the most important work. I also saw an immediate change once I stopped censoring my thoughts in session, picking out what I thought were the most interesting, relevant, or ‘safest’ parts. I now try and say whatever comes to mind in the moment – and it’s been nothing short of revelatory.

Therapy is my ultimate ‘safe place’. It’s somewhere I’m accepted for who I really am, by someone who cares about me and who is genuinely interested in me and not in who they want me to be. And that acceptance gives me a priceless gift – a greater sense of freedom, and of hope.